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Sun's CEO Unveils Virtualization Solution

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz gave attendees at the annual Oracle OpenWorld conference a look at his company's new virtualization management platform. First announced last September, the Sun xVM is built on the Xen open source hypervisor (the Sun xVM Server) and includes the xVM Ops Center virtualization management tool. The xVM supports Windows, Red Hat Linux and Solaris as guest operating systems.

The new virtualization package supports Sun's overall strategy of virtualizing all datacenter assets, Schwartz told a packed auditorium in San Francisco's Moscone Center. Sun is looking to virtualize network, storage, applications and hardware, he said, but keeping the management piece front and center.

Sun Executive Vice President Rich Green did the unveiling during the presentation.

"It's important to focus on the management of the virtual environment, as opposed to the substrate, in building the data centers of the future," Green said. Green's comment underscores the current trajectory of the x86 virtualization space.

Innovation in this market has evolved into a race up the stack, observed industry analyst Neil Macehiter.

"Ultimately, the battleground in virtualization is going to be fought at a higher level -- management, monitoring, optimization, resource allocation -- rather than the core hypervisor or virtualization file formats," Macehiter said.

Sun's xVM offering brings the Santa Clara, California-based systems company's technology to the virtualization management race. It will offer, among other things, access to such Solaris 10 features as ZFS and Predictive Self-healing, Green said.

Dell Inc's chief exec Michael Dell joined Schwartz onstage to talk about his company's new partnership with Sun. Dell announced earlier an agreement to license Sun's Solaris operating system to run on Dell's servers.

Sun has been providing virtualization technology since the development of the Java virtual machine, but xVM is the company's first foray into hypervisor-based virtualization. The hypervisor is the most basic virtualization component. It's the "bare metal" software that decouples the operating system and applications from their physical resources.

The open source Xen Project developed, and continues to refine, a free hypervisor for x86. Available since 2003 under the GNU General Public License, Xen runs on a host operating system, and so is considered paravirtualization technology. The project originated from research conducted at the University of Cambridge led by Ian Pratt, who later founded XenSource, the first company to implement a commercial version of the Xen hypervisor.

Both Oracle and Microsoft made virtualization announcements this week. Oracle introduced the Oracle VM, a server virtualization platform designed to support and centrally manage Oracle and non-Oracle apps within virtualized environments. Oracle VM, also built on the Xen hypervisor, supports Linux and Windows guest operating systems. Meanwhile, in Barcelona, Spain, Microsoft unveiled a standalone virtualization server that won't require users to run the Windows Server 2008 operating system.

And market leader VMware announced on Tuesday the second generation of its free VMware Server, and made a trial copy available on its Web site.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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